A Stitch in Time

People Sewing 50 Stars on US FlagStars in their eyes: Seamstresses rush to complete the new 50-star flag in 1960.
(Photo by Larry Keighley, © SEPS)


One more month and the proud new 50-star flags you see being sewn together by the busy Betsy Rosses at left will become officially ensigns of the United States. It has been a hard two years on manufacturers such as the Dettra Flag Company of Oaks, Pennsylvania.

After 47 years of an unchanging 48-star design, two newcomer states forced the rearrangement of the flag’s union, or starred blue field, twice within a year. On the double change-over, Dettra lost about $150,000 in canceled orders and unsalable inventory. The short-lived 49-star flag started the biggest boom the flag business had ever known. This boom collapsed utterly when Hawaii’s admission to the Union was voted by Congress in March 1959.

However, when President Eisenhower announced on August 21 which 50-star design was to be used, the boom revived, and by the Fourth of July Dettra will have made 2 million bright new banners — twice as many as it ever made before in a single year, and about 40 percent of the year’s total for the country.

Article originally published as “Faces of America: (4×5) + (5×6) = 50” in The Saturday Evening Post, June 4, 1960